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Thomas Powers and Julien Baker Are a Potent Pairing on ‘Empty Voices’

Powers met Baker after the two acknowledged a mutual attraction to each other’s work

Thomas Powers


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The Naked and Famous member Thomas Powers recruited a very special guest indeed for hew latest single, “Empty Voices”. The track, released in the lead-up to his debut solo album, features the voice of boygenius member Julien Baker, with Powers carefully balancing potency and fragility as he explores the futility of online conflicts.

“It’s an expression of fatigue and indignation, being on the receiving end of a heated, anonymous digital altercation. At the same time, it’s easy to act hypocritically and become a participant in an exchange that leaves everyone feeling despondent,” Powers explains.

“Social media encourages impulsivity and rewards volatility: if it enrages, it engages. But often, the voices worth listening to are not the loudest – they are careful, measured, and contemplative.”

Powers met Baker after the two acknowledged a mutual attraction to each other’s work. He made contact with the US singer-songwriter – whose career spans across several critically acclaimed albums and three Grammy Awards – over Twitter seven years ago. During the 2020 lockdown, Powers reached out again to ask if she was interested in collaborating, and the result was “Empty Voices”.

Now, Powers says he’s honoured to have Baker’s vocals and writing contribution on his latest single. The two wrapped up the song together in his home studio in LA. “We blasted through the recording and spent most of our studio time hanging out, watching the sunset up on a hill in Echo Park,” he recalls.

Releasing a music video to accompany the single, Powers enlisted the expertise of friend and long-time collaborator Joel Kefali (watch below). Filmed entirely in Aotearoa, it was important for Powers to reconnect to his roots.

Kefali, an award-winning New Zealand director, captured the delicacy of Powers’ lyrics by crafting a choreographed push-pull dynamic of attraction and rejection, embracing and fighting.

“It almost plays out like a life cycle of a relationship. We collaborated with Dance Plant Collective (NZ) to bring the movement to light. I wanted the characters to feel synthetic – made from cheap dollar store detritus with nothing organic in the frame,” Kefali says.

While his solo project differs from his work with The Naked and Famous, Powers’ upcoming debut solo album, titled A TYRANT CRYING IN PRIVATE, is what the artist describes as an endeavour that’s “unapologetically me.”

Thomas Powers’ “Empty Voices” (ft. Julien Baker) is out now. A TYRANT CRYING IN PRIVATE is out May 21st (pre-save/pre-order here).